Skill Level Beginner
- There's a running joke in the world of product management that our job is to hold meetings. Of course, it's not entirely true, but any person in a product role will definitely spend more time in meetings than not. And let's face it, meetings have a pretty bad reputation. Whether it's the mundane unnecessary status update meetings or brainstorming meetings where nothing actually really gets done, meetings can be distracting and carve out valuable minutes of your day. On the flip side, any team leader who knows how and when to hold a meeting will not only be much more productive themselves, but earn the respect and productivity of their team as well.
Let's discuss a few ways to make sure you're always making the most of meetings. First, let me stress one thing. The best meeting is one that doesn't exist. Have you ever seen a coworker with the famous mug that says, "I survived another meeting that should have been an email"? Yeah, you probably have, and there's a reason why it's so popular. Before creating a meeting invite ask yourself, can this be addressed with an email, chat, or even a quick talk in person? If the answer to any of those is yes, then do not under any circumstances schedule that meeting.
Things that fall under this category include things like status updates, weekly check-ins, and specific one-off requests. All right, so let's say that you really do need that team meeting. What do you do next? Do you send a note inviting your entire team to gather them in the conference room? No, think long and hard about who really needs to attend your meeting. Only invite team members who are accountable for the topic at hand. The smaller the meeting, the more effective it will be. Now, before pressing Send on that meeting invite, make sure you have a clear-cut, tight agenda. To create one, ask yourself questions like, what's the final outcome of this meeting? And working backwards, what needs to be discussed to accomplish the final outcome? Map out this information in an organized way and include it in the description of the invite.
This way everyone knows what they're getting into and they'll have their ideas and solutions ready prior to stepping into the room. Once your meeting is in session, make sure you do all you can to start and end on time, with bonus points for ending early. What's the best way to do that though? Well, just ensure you abide by your own agenda. Take ownership of your meeting and move things along accordingly. Be sure to front-load high priority items, ask good questions to other presenters, and politely interject to cut to the point if someone goes off-topic. And trust me, someone always goes off-topic.
The last and most important part of a meeting is the follow-up action. Make sure you or a designated colleague is taking the right notes. The last thing a team member wants is a long scroll of all the dialogue that took place in the meeting. You're not a court reporter, after all. An effective follow-up starts with a clear email or document assigning accountability to each stakeholder with clear and agreed upon timelines. Short, sweet, and effective. I can't stress enough that the best meeting is one that doesn't exist. But if one is really actually necessary, do these simple things, and I promise you'll improve your work life, as well as the work life of everyone else around you.